NORFOLK, Virginia — How to keep a red state blue is one of the many challenges President Obama faces in his bid for re-election. He defied the odds four years ago when he won the reliably Republican Virginia commonwealth, besting opponent Sen. John McCain by 53 to 47 percent. Hoping to pull off the feat off again, the president kicked off a two-day tour of the state Friday afternoon at a standing-room-only campaign rally in the gymnasium at Green Run High School in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
A crowd of approximately 1,400 let out a thundering cheer when Obama finally appeared at the podium, sleeves rolled up. As has become his habit, the president began his remarks with a reminder of his and First Lady Michelle Obama's "modest" upbringing and how hard work got them where they are today.
"In my first campaign, when I thought about why am I getting into politics, the reason was because we -- my family, Michelle's family, we had benefited from this basic American bargain -- this idea at the heart of this nation that if you're willing to work hard, if you are willing to take responsibility, then you are not constrained by the circumstances of your birth," Obama said. "You can go as far as your dreams can take you. If you're willing to work hard, then you can find a job that supports a family. And you can have a home to call your own. And you won't be bankrupt if you get sick. And even if you weren't born into wealth, you can make sure your kids get a great education and go on to college. Maybe you can take a vacation once in a while."
The president also reminded the audience of the state of the economy he inherited and how initiatives such as the auto industry bailout have helped put the economy back on the right path. His opponent Mitt Romney and the Republican Party, he said, believe that by helping people at the very top and eliminating regulations designed to prevent the financial industry from doing exactly as it pleases, the economy will improve and people at the bottom will benefit. Obama said the GOP wants to offer $5 trillion in new tax cuts that would be enjoyed mostly by the wealthy, while cutting funding for education, research, rebuilding the nation's infrastructure and veterans' benefits.
"I have to tell you, I think they're wrong. And the reason I think they're wrong is because we tried it," he said, adding that the result was record surpluses turning into record deficits, stagnant wages and the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. "If you try something and it doesn't work, why would you try it again? Why would we want to go back to that? "
Obama said that the Republicans' top-down theory is not the way to grow the economy and that he believes it should be done from the middle out and the bottom up.
The audience, which responded to the president with wild enthusiasm, shouting "four more years!" and stomping their feet, included many more Black and brown faces than is typical of a campaign event.
"He needs to generate a large turnout again among African-Americans, Hispanics and other minorities, as well as young people," Larry Sabato, a professor of politics at the University of Virginia and director of the UVA Center for Politics, told CBS News. "You put all that together and it makes a lot of sense for him to visit the area repeatedly in November."
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(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)